Original night stalker

A composite of the suspect

Real Name: Unknown
Aliases: East Area Rapist, Original Night Stalker
Wanted For: Murder, Rape
Missing Since: May 1986


Details: The Sacramento area was terrorized by a brazen serial rapist who was nicknamed the "East Area Rapist". The rapist was suspected of at least forty-four rapes in Northern California in the 70's. This unknown man first targeted women who lived alone, but eventually became more brazen and raped women who did NOT live alone. He bound and blindfolded his victims,  then roamed their house as he taunted and threatened their lives, ultimately raping the woman and leaving. When men were present, he often tied the man up in another room. The perpetrator would at times stack dishes on the people who were tied up, in order to serve as a deterrent to the bound people from trying to escape, and as audible warning to the attacker that the individuals were trying to or had escaped their bindings. The rapist eventually ventured down South to Southern California in 1979 and continued to terrorize Southern California residents until 1986. It was stated that he killed at least ten people in the Southern California area during this time period.
His first few Southern California victims were couples who were home together when they were attacked. None of them survived. Dr. Robert Offerman and his girlfriend Debra Manning were shot to death in Dr. Offerman's Santa Barbara home on December 30, 1979. A few months later March 13, 1980, Charlene and Lyman Smith were found murdered in their Ventura home; authorities believed that the Ventura and Santa Barbara murders were connected. The killer then headed further South to Laguna Niguel where he killed Keith Harrington and then raped and also murdered Keith's wife Patricia on August 19, 1980.
The next victim was a woman who was home alone named Manuela Witthuhn. Manuela was killed on February 27, 1981, while her husband was spared because he was in the hospital at the time. Then, back in Santa Barbara, between July 26 and 27, 1981, Cheri Domingo and Gregory Sanchez were brutally murdered in Cheri's home.
Suprisingly, the killer stopped his murderous rampage for almost five years until May 4, 1986 when he came upon 18-year-old Janelle Cruz of Irvine, California. Janelle was unable to go with her family on a vacation to Mexico and thus left to tend to the house while the rest of her family was gone. The killer entered her home that night and sexually assaulted and murdered her. Janelle's rape and murder was the last suspected murder of the rapist. In the years following the rapes and murders, several surviving victims claimed that their attacker had called and taunted them over the phone.
In 1996, Orange County Sheriff's Department detectives linked six of the murders to one killer through DNA. In 2001, a criminal expert connected the East Area rapes to the spree of serial killings throughout California through by use of DNA evidence.
Police believe that the killer may be responsible for other murders, such as the 1975 murder of Claude Snelling and the February 2, 1978 murders of Brian and Katie Maggiore. Authorities believe that the killer has not been heard from since 1986 because he is either in prison for a different crime or dead in a different state. It is possible that if he is dead in another state the authorities in that state don't realize that this dead person is a serial rapist and killer who is wanted in California. The killer is described as a man who is 5'7" to 5'11" with blue or hazel eyes who would likely be his 60s if alive today, in the mid-2000s.

  • Katie and Brian Maggiore
  • Debra Manning and Robert Offerman
  • Charlene and Lyman Smith
  • Keith and Patrice Harrington
  • Manuela Witthuhn
  • Cheri Domingo and Greg Sanchez
  • Janelle Cruz

Extra Notes: This case first aired on the April 3, 2001 episode. This case was also profiled on Cold Case Files and On the Case with Paula Zahn.
Another criminal rapist featured on Unsolved Mysteries was the Boston Rapist.
Results: Wanted. DNA testing initially showed that the Offerman/Manning murders and Dominguez/Sanchez murders were committed by a killer separate from the Original Night Stalker. However, in 2011, advanced DNA testing confirmed that these four victims were also killed by EAR/ONS.
In June of 2016, the FBI announced that there was enough evidence to connect the murders of Brian and Katie Maggiore to the EAR/ONS case. It was also announced that there is a $50,000 reward leading to the assailant's capture. However, to this day, he remains unidentified.

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